Final Projects: Graciela Lopez

Graciela wrote her final essay as a letter home, reflecting on her intentions for her time in Bolivia. Excerpts from her letter:

In this picture you can see my host mother, host sister and I. Although we may not agree on everything, I appreciate how open they have been about sharing their thoughts and opinions with me. During our lunches we have had the opportunity to discuss everything from Evo’s administration to what their everyday life consist of. During these interactions I have also been able to see the ways Bolivia’s current government and economic state effects this family at a micro level.

GFhost family

My host sister has a degree in industrial engineering from a private school here in Cochabamba. My host mother and her ex-husband both worked hard to be able to afford to take their daughter to both a private secondary school and a private university. After paying for Andrea, my host sister, to receive all of this education her parents as many parents in Bolivia expected her to become working professionals in her field.

My host sister has been trying to find an engineering job in Bolivia for more than two years. This has made her parents encourage her to move to Spain or Argentina to find a well-paid engineering job. This experience is very similar to a chapter I read for class called And Those Who Left from the book Dignity and Defiance. The parallels to the book are striking in that many of the Bolivians that I have talked to see migrating to other countries as something that would increase their chances of receiving employment. Stories like these give local unemployed professionals the motivation to leave the country in order to find a place where they can practice their profession. Through conversations with my host family, I have understood that many Bolivians do join the Bolivian diaspora not because they seek to leave but because they must find a way to use what they know to make a living. It is interesting that the economy is “even more acute in cities” since so many people move here to Cochabamba from the more rural parts of Bolivia (Farthing and Kohl 79). When my host family discusses the idea of Andrea leaving, it is clear other family members’ success stories, such as her sisters’, encourages my host mother to want her to emigrate. It is interesting not only to read statistics like “an estimated 2.5 million people, about one in five since the 1980’s” leave the country but also to discuss this issue with people what this entails in their everyday life.

When speaking to my host cousin who was here for a week visiting from Australia where he works as an engineer, he mentioned that he and his wife stayed in Bolivia for years as he tried to find a well-paying job. Yet, after not having any luck, emigrating seemed like the best option. He continued to say that he missed home all the time but that here he could barely make a living to support him and his wife while in Australia they live a stable life where money is not a constant worry. The fact that “unlicensed street vendors, workshops, garages and other small firms” account for “70 percent of all employment” shows that there is not a stable job market for professionals such as my host cousin to find employment (Farthing and Kohl 95).

My host sister, who attempts not to leave the country to find work, has started a job as a sales person in La Paz. This disappoints her mother as one does not need higher education to have this job, and it pays a very low wage. After being on the job hunt for two years, this job seemed great to Andrea. My host mother is also a part of this informal economy and makes cakes from her home for a living. People order them for different occasions and she makes them and delivers them to their homes. Through her experience, I have gained an insight into what working in the informal economy is like. When asked she tells me that she thinks it is great that she can be her own boss, but that there is no guaranteed amount of money she gets every month which can be worrisome.

GF women

…Through this mural, I am reminded of how on the surface it seems as though things are getting better in regard to women’s rights since there is a new law and efforts to have gender equality. Even with the law that was passed, it is great that punishment has gone from 8 to 10 years to now being 30 but if less than two percent of trials are being sentenced as Schwarz stated is this really effective? However when I have day- to-day conversations, it seems that not much has changed. In Evo’s Bolivia, it is stated that there have been some strides in women’s rights as there are more government representatives as cabinet ministers and there was a law that was passed in 2013 that “prevent[s] and punish[es] violence against women” which seemed to have reduced the amount of abuse (Farthing and Kohl 66). However as seen in the book these new women representatives in Congress are not really taken as seriously as the men. Although having women in the cabinet is the first step, I would argue that there is still a lot of work to be done to get these women to be seen as the men’s equals. Although domestic abuse has not been eliminated completely, it is clear that domestic abuse has gone down. The women in the Chapare attested to this fact. As far as funding, the amount given to women’s equality organizations has decreased from 1% in 2003 from the government and civil society disbursement to .9% in 2008 (Wolf 20).


…the more I read and ask people what they think the more I begin to understand how complicated things are. I do not want make generalizations on how effective Evo’s policies are but so far it is clear to me that they divide the nation. I think before I came to Bolivia I read about this indigenous President who has brought “Dignidad a Bolivia por Diez Anos.” I romanticized Evo’s role in Bolivia, for he is such a talented politician who speaks on the rights of mother earth, indigenous people, and campesinos in such a way that makes it seems as if change is happening. Due to these preconceived notions, I did not think there would be so much political engagement but was presently surprised to see such blatant opinions such as the ones displayed in this photo. I found that even the new requirement that students have to learn an indigenous language is seen as controversial. During my time in Bolivia, I think I have been reminded more than ever that one must be critical of what they read. Personally I think that Evo has made some important strides for the county doing things such as protecting the cocaleros rights, nationalizing indigenous languages spoken in the area, and improving women’s rights.

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Final Projects: Benjamin Hartheimer

Through my ethnographic fieldwork, I was able to observe and analyze four different food locations: a supermarket, a large outdoor market, a street vendor, and a restaurant. More specifically, I compared the supermarket (I C Norte) to the outdoor market (La Cancha) and the street vendor to the restaurant (La Villa). While examining the two different types of markets, I hoped to observe what types of goods were sold at each location, the prices of different goods, how the goods were showcased, and who was shopping at the different locations. With regard to the two restaurants, I hoped to compare the prices of a meal, what types of foods were being served, the customers at each location, and where the ingredients for the food came from. The following are my observations, based on both my fieldwork and less formal observations. It is interesting to note that my initial views and pre-conceived ideas of wealth and socioeconomic status in Bolivia have changed over the course of three weeks.


The first restaurant I examined was a street vendor located in a small wooden building on the Circle Tarija. While this food shop was more substantial than most street vendors, it was by no means a fancy restaurant. There were plastic tables and chairs around the building where customers could enjoy their food. This street vendor sold some smaller, packaged snacks but could also cook foods when ordered by a customer. For example, they served Chips Ahoy, Oreos, bags of chips, Bolivian breads, and candies. In addition, they served hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and traditional Bolivian dishes such as milanesa and salchipapa. While this vendor served lunch foods, I did not notice a grill inside of the small building- I only noticed a microwave. Throughout my observation at this location, I only witnessed one person order a lunch-type food. Everyone else, including myself, picked up a bottled Coca-Cola product or fruit juice and a small snack, such as a bag of chips or a candy bar. Nonetheless, a majority of the people who bought goods from this store sat at one of the tables to enjoy his or her food. It appeared that most customers treated this street vendor as a place to grab a quick snack and relax for a few minutes. Many people were on their phones or talking with a friend with whom they came. Most customers did not stay longer than 10 minutes.

The next restaurant I visited was La Villa Restaurant, located on Avenue Americas, which is a few minute drive from downtown Cochabamba. The owner of the restaurant is a cousin of my former soccer coach. This was extremely helpful as I was able to speak with him in great detail about his customer base, where he gets his food from, and about the restaurant scene in Cochabamba. Each Sunday, La Villa sets its menu for that upcoming week. That is, they do not have a set menu that customers can order from, but, instead, they offer three different lunch options each day that a customer can choose from. Along with the main dish, each customer has access to an unlimited salad bar, is given a soup before his or her main dish, and also gets a dessert after the main dish. Each customer receives a four-course meal at La Villa. This restaurant is only open from 11 AM to about 3 PM. Each time I visited, I noticed that the small dining room was not full; there were only about 15 people enjoying lunch. Walter, the owner of the restaurant, informed me that about 60% of their lunches are either delivered to businesses or picked up by customers and eaten elsewhere. Every day, they serve about 130 people. Walter believes that of these customers, about 95% are customers who have dined at La Villa before.

Walter believes that his restaurant is categorized as a “mid-range” restaurant in Cochabamba. La Villa is held to a very high standard, and Walter believes that his customers come to his restaurant because of its welcoming ambiance along with the quality of the food. It is a family owned and operated business, and almost every customer is able to form a relationship with Walter by returning to the restaurant often. Because Walter lived in the United Sates and worked in the restaurant industry for more than 30 years, La Villa is more than just a traditional Bolivian restaurant. They have a vast menu and incorporate many international dishes into a Bolivian-style meal. In addition, La Villa is not advertised as a tourist spot but they do receive a good amount of international diners every year. Walter believes this is because friends of his tell out-of-town visitors about La Villa when they visit Cochabamba. La Villa is a restaurant people enjoy spending time at and returning to; it caters to middle to upper-middle class citizens of Cochabamba.

Throughout my stay in Cochabamba, I have eaten at dozens of restaurants, both big and small. While I only ethnographically observed two locations, I was able to learn a lot from dining in others and taking note of how much my meals cost. At the street vendor, I purchased a bottle of Coca-Cola and a small pack of Chips Ahoy for 8.5 Bolivianos. A hamburger at this street vendor cost 10 Bolivianos and a small bottle of water cost 5. At La Villa, I was able to eat a four course meal for only 18 Bolivianos. When comparing these two establishments, the street vendor appears to be more expensive for the amount of food received. I believe this is due to the number of customers each location receives per day. As I mentioned, La Villa receives 130 customers in about a four-hour period. I cannot imagine that this street vendor receives the same amount of customers as La Villa, even though they are open more hours per day. In addition, La Villa buys their food fresh at La Cancha every morning. On the other hand, the street vendor does not have a grill and must either pre-cook their foods at home and reheat them in the shop or buy packaged and/or frozen foods. Buying foods in bulk at La Cancha is more cost effective in comparison to how the street vendor prepares foods. In addition, the customers I observed at the street vendor tended to be younger and dressed more casually. A majority of those dining at La Villa appeared to be over the age of 40. Most men dining at La Villa wore jeans or slacks and a button-up dress shirt. The women tended to be dressed in pants and sweaters or more formal shirts. I did not notice any customers wearing t-shirts at La Villa. Although the difference in price of a meal is not drastic between La Villa and the street vendor, when taking into account the other aspects of each establishment, my ethnographic observations lead me to believe that those dining at La Villa are of a higher socioeconomic status than those getting food at the specific street vendor.

I also found it very interesting to compare La Villa to Factory Grill and Bar and Casa de Campo. Factory Grill and Bar is an American sports bar in Cochabamba. About 60% of the customers dining at Factory appeared to be from foreign countries. While at Factory, I ordered a soda, an appetizer and a main course, which came out to be 150 Bolivianos. While this price would be similar to a meal at a sports bar in the United States, this was by far the most expensive meal I have had while in Bolivia. I received less food at Factory than I received at La Villa and I paid nearly 8 times more at Factory. Factory clearly caters to an international crowd, and, thus, charged prices similar to sports bars in other countries. Casa de Campo, on the other hand, is a Bolivian style restaurant but is known as a tourist attraction. At Casa de Campo, I ate milanesa de pollo, which included white rice, steamed vegetables, french fries and a large piece of fried chicken breast, and drank a bottle of water. My bill for this meal came out to be 73.5 Bolivianos. While the milanesa de pollo at Casa de Campo was as big as the main course at La Villa, I did not receive salad, soup, and a dessert at Casa de Campo but still paid about 4 times as much as I paid at La Villa. I believe this is solely due to the fact that Casa de Campo is in a more touristy part of Cochabamba and has a reputation for being a good tourist restaurant. While there were many Bolivians eating in Casa de Campo, there were also a lot of international diners. Every customer at La Villa was from Bolivia.


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Final Projects: Cecil Brooks

For his final project, Cecil wrote and performed these pieces about the Bolivian economy, identity and social struggles.

Exportación del Cuerpo” (to “Mash” by J Dilla – START AT 00:17)

[Verse 1] (24 Bars)
El concepto de un territorio aislado,
Genera desarrollo extensivo y-sonado.
Inevitable…. pero no quiso-hado,
El que duerme, en el piso, aquí-solado.

No sé si hay imágenes que los demás vieran,
Si encontraron espíritus como fumaban hierba.
Levitando encima del fuego, falto mi pierna,
Es posible en el mundo secular que’l Señor quiera.

Porque la motivación para participar,
Cae con, gran deseos, de iniciar…
Buen fin del amor… cine, “VCR”
Videos de los bien vestidos, y-mi-par.

… Con historia romántica, te empujo,
… a una tierra prometida… con el lujo.
… Que sigamos, siquiera si yo me mudo,
A otro país, la desaparición del brujo.

Mejor OPCIÓN, faltas RAZÓN si te-quedas,
En el mismo camino, solo girando las ruedas.
…. Hay que explorar, realizar tus-metas,
…. Arreglar el acueducto con cubetas.

Algún día…….. lograríamos-¿sí?
Como nativos, en vez de inmigrantes,
PA’LANTE, con AVANCES, donde moví.

“Tierra Herida” (to “Airworks” by J Dilla – START AT 00:13)
[Verse 1] (16 Bars)
La sangre del imperio prehistórico cae,
En la piel MORENA del PLANETA debajo la calle.
Dinosaurios llorando a causa del dolor,
Que complementa el muerte.. además el olor.

Lo que trajo visitante viajando de otro mundo,
Familiar, ¿no? Como profesía profundo.
No aprendimos nada si creamos que Dios,
Ha creado este mundo para servir solo Vos.

¿…..Cómo seguimos satisfacien-do dese-os?
El pe-tro, lo nue-stro, inyecciones por eso.
Extractivismo, para buscar poco más,
Cada kilómetro guiamos, uno siglo para atrás.

La Amazonia….. nos ha dado cantidades,
——->Que hemos DEPRIMIDO con INSTINTO de animales.
Empresarios saquen y muestran amistades,
Pero matan el campo mientras roban capitales.

…. El oro negro, de pronto, que lo saques,
Si lo traigas al palacio, no importa que haces.
Corta las ramas, que justifiques en clases,
Dejes esculturas en la reserva que pases.

… Negro querido… la sangre-que-mada,
Por cual tenemos gran hambre-que-mala.
¿Te molesta la consciencia? Pe-sada,
…………. Solo quisimos enriquecernos, ¿Qué-pasa?

“File from the Righthand Folder” (to “The Twister (Huh, What)” by J Dilla – START AT 00:13)

[Verse 1] (24 Bars)
Chilling in the Chapare Checking to be a botanist,
Primitive Potions with Peaceful Polish oncologists.
Career change does nothing long as I stay androgynous,
Once upon-a-kiss that’s softer than all the cotton-is.

So soft, it warps between the space of a ki-lo,
And a crate on top of which a, sharpshooter must re-load.
….”Revolution Roulette” in an Andean casi-no,
With entrance, fees spent on the baron who gives a key-note.

Elec-toral men, yet to find the best-moral,
….. Institution to import an immense-portal.
Commodities teleport to a foreign company,
Sweatshop wages buy out loyalty publicly.

…See the magic-work with disappearing bags-of-dirt,
Mountaintop removal leaves scars on the land-of-Earth.
We try to act-un-nerved coping with an act-of-hurt,
… No reciprocity even if you asking-first.

All the PASSENGERS, driven crazy by Japanese,
Dusty vehicles passed through American factories.
Santa Cruz can’t-compete, even if it had-a-piece,
Of imports because it’s way cheaper for mass-elites.

And there you have it, a gamble with the pawns,
Using wages that are earned by those who cover the cost.
The Bolivian economy’s controlled by the clause,
That appears in a Coca-Cola contract by law.


“Lo Distinto” (to “Time: The Doughnut of the Heart” by J Dilla – START AT 00:05)
[Verse 1] (16 Bars)
Estoy mirando hacia este paisaje,
Corazón a la belleza natural sin maquillaje.
Pa’ crear ARTE como el MATE que te TRAJE,
Requiere que crecamos, ¿el modelo? Mi pelaje.
—> Regalo de mestizaje, recuerdo de los ancestros,
.. Antepasados me dirían que beba del pecho.
….. Falto el conocimien-to que han hecho,
Para mejorar cere-bros…. seguimos aprendiendo.
Historia del país, partido le hace pobre,
En búsQUEDA por riQUEZA cada vida se cobre.
Residentes pagan por sus propios monumen-tos,
Extran…je-ros, lo me-nos con dólares como vien-tos.
La BRISA……. que traiga VIDA por las SEMILLAS,
No puede comparar… el primer viaja millas.
Asfixiando el aire y esta economía,
…. Nos salve cholarobina… y yo te pongo fría.
[Verse 2] (16 Bars)
Vengan al pueblo antiguo, te esperan,
Indios valorizados que, llenan la selva…..
—->Animales por tu curiosidad, como abuela,
Mascotas indígenas, vinieron de Venezuela.
Una artisanía traiga poca ganancia,
¿De donde viene subsistencia? Supongo mágica…
La pérdida, de surplice, es la básica,
Pena en la mente de una chola sin máquina.
Cuando yo compro un regalo por mi-jefe,
Yo pienso en el COSTO por los OJOS de mi-gente.
¿Solo un Boliviano? de cuerpo y bi-llete,
Todavía menos de un plato de comida si-quiere.
A-quí-desde, Toro Toro(ta), al-Cha-pa-re,
Industria del turismo consumen pa-la-da-res.
En Latinoamérica refiero a-la-gran-de,
Porque, exotismo ha corrido a-la-ma-dre.

“Somos Tarpuqkuna” (to “One Eleven” by J Dilla) START AT 00:11

[Hook] (8 Bars)
…..Sarata tarpurqani….
Cultivamos el país, y comemos el maíz.
…..Sarata tarpurqani….
Curará la nariz si lo comes con anis.
…..Sarata tarpurqani….
Cultivamos el país, y comemos el maíz.
Nuqanchik Tawatinsuyuta risunchik,
Sarata tarpuq…… Sarata tarpuq….

[Verse 1] (8 Bars)
……. Los, GRANOS dorADOS que lleVAMOS al PAVO,
Representa el encuentro colonial en la mano.
Del Señor, Pachakuti…. ENCIMA de la FINCA,

Charquado en el CENTRO de un PEQUEÑO RELLENO.
Depósito de cultura…… sin la minería,
Si necesitas extracción allá la chichería.

[Hook] (4-6 Bars)
…..Sarata tarpurqani….
Cultivamos el país, y comemos el maíz.
…..Sarata tarpurqani….
Curará la nariz si lo comes con anis.

“Dilema del Malcriado” (to “Two Can Win” by J Dilla – START AT 00:19)

[Verse 1] (16 Bars)
Nos acercan los soldados en gran camiones,
Nos amenazan con refuerzos en aviones.
Insultos con balas… nos llaman maricones,
… Pedimos al Cacique por falta de taliones.

Estaban buscando por cultivadores de drogas,
Si traigan violencia a ti, solo rogas.
Si no le impide, tenemos que echar las logas.
Defender la vivencia, protegemos la coca.

Queremos que nuestra nación vaya y  suba,
Pero sin recrear una situación en Cuba.
NecesiTAMOS los eSTADOS por negocios ,
¿Cómo coopeRAMOS si siempre hay una lucha?

Faltamos la salida del mar, entonces truchas,
No tienen nada que ver con que compañías buscan.
Tampoco naranjas, kiwis, ningunas frutas,
Que son los productos peores, sin escusas.

[Verse 2] (16 Bars)
…. La respuesta al problema en la hoja,
Cosecho pa’ vivir sin sea ladrón ni floja.
Tampoco miento, por una gringa pelirroja,
Cuya vacación larga en Titicaca me moja.

…. Primo del bosque….. gente de la tierra,
—->Peleando con águilas, sobrevivir la guerra.
—-> Evito colonialismo con Che en la Sierra.
Castillo por un Cato en Quillacoyo, no cierra.

La puerta a desarrollo está en frente de,
—–>La persona………. industrializando el té.
……….. Producirá las mediCINAS y la haRINA…
Al lado de QUINUA MOLIDA, mantenemos fe.

Que escape talones estadounidenses,
Más grande que Evo y quienes más coalescentes.
Unir Personas, Pavos, Perros, y Peces,
Por una Planta que CRECE, allá todo los meses.

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Final Projects: Peter Barkey-Bircann

Vacant Spaces & Defense Systems: Cochabamba, Bolivia

Peter’s photo essay draws his reflections on conversations with his family, his walks through the city, and the work of Brazilian anthropologist Teresa Caldeira, and her analysis of urban space, fear of crime and the architecture of fortified enclaves.

From his essay:

Camera in tow, I skipped two steps on the staircase as I leapt towards the first floor from the confines of my (temporary) room. I had just been picked up by my host family, a tightly-knit retiree couple with two domestic dogs, a soon-to-be domesticated street dog, and three kids in their twenties. I was to be staying nightly in this house for three weeks. After enduring a night of flights, which consisted of squirming in between two strangers with the same goal of suspending consciousness to expedite the lengthy process of traveling, the excitement of being in a foreign house with foreign manners and foreign ideas had kept my exhaustion at bay. My saliva was formed by little shards of coca leaf, prescribed by Ligia (my host mother) in order to fend away any sign of altitude sickness or stomach pain that comes with living at an altitude of 2,558 meters above sea level. I needed to take a walk. I didn’t want to begin to think about unpacking. I wanted to explore the neighborhood surrounding the house, and it was around 5:00 pm, the light beginning to dim slightly. I began to walk towards the door.

As soon as my hand touched the door knob, I felt a firm grasp on my shoulder. It was Rodolfo (my host father). I turned around to a wrinkled face that had its lips momentarily twisted in a disgusted state of confusion. Without hesitation, Rodolfo pointed towards my black camera (an expensive looking combination of buttons, glass, an interchangeable lens, and a cracked screen) and asks me if I wanted to get robbed as soon as I arrived. He immediately instructed me not to bring my camera out, even in the day-lit neighborhood. Rodolfo tells me that people will flank me in motorcycles as I walk on the sidewalk, hit me in the head with a small stick, and before I know it, what I have harnessed on my shoulder will be kilometers away in the hands of two ladrones. I listened to his instructions precisely (the five hours of experience that I had in Cochabamba paled in comparison to his sixty-seven years).


A system of barbed wires, spikes, and chains that lay on top of a cement wall surrounding a residential area in a neighborhood in the southern province of Cochabamba, Bolivia. This wall had a combination of the defense mechanisms that I had only previously seen in penitentiaries in the United States.

As I walked back up the stairs leading towards my room, I glanced at my rubicund face reflecting in the window. I was in a brief state of confusion. My periphery vision had deceived me. I was in an upper-class neighborhood that seemed safe, with kids swinging in the playground and elderly people strolling in the park that was adjacent to my house. The only thing that had stuck out to me as odd were the walls surrounding each of the houses, lining the block. They had an intricate system of defense mechanisms, ranging from broken glass to barbed wire, as photographed above. From that moment on, almost every decision I made going out of the walls of my house was influenced by fear.

The entryway to my house, which was jointly connected to two other houses with different families. There are two locking systems in the gate, as well as spikes that extend the wall making it about 12 feet tall. After a week, my family had given me a key, which opened up one lock, while other times I had to make use of the bell system.

An unfinished building on the intersection of Av Heroinas y Av Ayacucho, a usually vibrant area of the downtown with markets, electronic stores, and banks on the street-level.

A brick wall surrounding another house in my area. Shards of glass line the top of the wall, something that I had not seen before coming to Bolivia.
…I think back to Rodolfo’s moment of salvation for my camera and I. I think of the amount of times I had been walking in a populated street, completely safe, but still having a sense of paranoia about every movement around me. I think of the times I spent on the Micro bus with one of my sweaty hands gripping my wallet in my front pocket while the other was pressed on the front zipper of my backpack, even though there was a three-year-old and her mother sitting in front of me. I think of the multitude of taxi drivers that I had waved away because they did not have a miniature radio movil sign on their door. I think about to my meeting with in a travel clinic, where I was prescribed three different vaccinations. I think of my internal fear for my gastrointestinal system, and not brushing my teeth with sink water. How does the culture of fear affect Rodolfo and Ligia’s daily existence? I begin to wonder if this is how they feel when they walk around. Towards the end of a sobremesa one night I ask Ligia if she feels safe when she walks around. She replies and says that she feels safe at some points, in danger in some parts of the city and that it depends on the time of day.
A small playground in a residential area where I had spent time doing ethnographic research observing movements in the park. It was almost always empty, barring one or two kids playing by themselves.

… I have not had enough time in the city to come to a certifiable conclusion about how people interact with these defense systems, and if they are connected to the culture of fear in part formed by the immense defense systems protecting suburban dwellers. I want to simply bring this question to a discussion. I can feel the culture of fear, but I want to know how it is explained through the urban phenomenon of vacant spaces and defense systems. This is a question that could be important to urban development. I wish I had more evidence to explore this question, but I will leave that for another anthropological study that can spend months in Cochabamba. As I leave the city of Cochabamba, I feel hopeful, because I am finally certain that anthropology as a discipline is tangible. I felt a fear that I had read about before. I step onto the bus that sets me on my trajectory back home. I don’t feel like a vacant space. This culture of fear is relevant in politics and economics, language and culture, fables and food, and most importantly, to the participant.

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Despedida: the Goodbye Party

On the last Friday of class, students presented their final projects. They were amazing! Then, a final lunch with their host families, packing and a goodbye party before most headed to the airport to fly to La Paz. We enjoyed pique, a traditional Bolivian dish featuring steak-cut french fries piled with sliced beef, sausages and spicy sauce.
DSCF1098 DSCF1099 DSCF1100 DSCF1101 DSCF1103 DSCF1104 DSCF1106

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One of the buses we have traveled in, to the Chapare:


As we have gone around the country in bus trips, we have a chance to see some of rural life.

On the road to Torotoro:


On the road to the Chapare:

One thing we notice is a lot of political ads, many of them promoting the Morales administration and highlighting his infrastructure projects. Here, a mural advises people to vote yes on the upcoming referendum that would allow the Morales administration to run for another term.
evo sign

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Trip to the Chapare: Fun Times

We spent a lot of time thinking about and debating drug policy, political participation and the current predicaments of the Morales administration. But we also spent time hanging out, enjoying the intense heat of the tropico, and the lush grounds of the Los Tucanes hotel where we were staying.






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Trip to the Chapare: the Coca Industrialization Factory

We also had a chance to visit a coca industrialization factory, that makes coca liquor, coca cookies, coca candies, and coca flour. Unfortunately, because of the international prohibition on coca leaf in the UN Single Prohibition on Narcotic Drugs, developing an export market for these products has been very been very difficult.



We talked to the second leader of the Yungas Federation of Coca Growers, who explained their history, organization, and current hopes for development of a market for legal coca products.



List of coca products produced at the factory includes Christmas pastries, coca liquor, coca candies, and coca hair gel.


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Trip to the Chapare: The Cato of Coca

On Monday, we left for the Chapare region, with Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network. We learned about Bolivia’s drug policy, which has legalized the coca leaf and allowed for limited legal coca leaf production. After a five hour bus ride — happily, there were no mudslides that blocked the road! — we got into Villa Tunari in the early afternoon, had lunch and then relaxed before beginning our discussion with Kathy. She provided a history of the colonization in the region, U.S. intervention and drug production.


Coca has been grown for millennia in the Andes, and used to as a mild stimulant (like coffee), and to combat altitude sickness. About a third of Bolivians use coca in the traditional way, chewing (more like sucking really) on a wad of dried leaves held between the cheek and gum. Small bags of coca are common in meetings and homes.DSCF0644

Coca is also used to manufacture cocaine. The UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs equates the two, but Bolivian law clearly distinguishes between coca (legal) and cocaine (illegal). Bolivian farmers can legally grow a cato of coca, 1600 square meters. We visited on cato of coca, and got a chance to talk to coca farmers who explained their history of protest and struggle for more humane and responsive drug policies in Bolivia. Here we are climbing up to a small coca field.
The farmer, Don Fidelio, is a Quechua speaker who lives alone in a small wooden house.DSCF0961


Many families dry their coca leaves in the sun by side of the road, before packing them into 50 pound sacks for sale at the market.



Discussion in the afternoon.
class by the pool

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Weekend Fun: Sunday

On Sunday, some of us went on a tour of the small towns of the Valle Alto (high valley), learning about local heroes of the independence movement, presidents born in the region, and seeing local sites.

The plaza of a town known for its peaches:


A large statue of the special bread baked on the Day of the Dead, in a forest where local families come to celebrate with their loved ones who have passed away.
Corn drying for chicha:
Lots of colorful textiles for sale:
One of the several churches we visited:

Street scene:
We had lunch on the lake outside of Cochabamba, with paddle boats and a zip line for those who were feeling daring.

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